Don't Presume Guilt

#HRFridayFact: A full investigation should be a major element of your disciplinary process. Don’t presume guilt until proof is evident

As cases of sexual harassment continue to make headline news, the actions taken against alleged perpetrators seem quite severe. In all disciplinary matters, including those of bullying and harassment, employers should never presume guilt or make decisions ahead of time.

Unless an employee owns up to a misdemeanour, everyone is entitled to a full and fair hearing and investigation. Even if your evidence is undisputable, you must still go through a proper process.

There may be occasions where suspension is a reasonable step, but this is usually a last resort position and only where the alleged perpetrator is an immediate risk to the business or, in harassment cases, where their continued presence in the business may compromise a fair investigation.

Potential to bring the organisation into disrepute could also be a reason to suspend and may be what is behind the suspensions and dismissals we are hearing about in the media. While the allegations of sexual harassment are considerable, at this moment in time they do remain just allegations and dismissing on this basis is a risk.

Making decisions without due consideration makes the disciplinary processes problematic. If a dismissal outcome looks like it’s been prejudged, then it’s easy to argue that a fair process has not been followed. The employer can be subject to a claim of wrongful or unfair dismissal, even if the case is effectively sound.

The golden rules in disciplinary cases are consistency and objectivity. Always follow a fair process to ensure any outcome is fairly enforceable.

For help and support with any disciplinary and grievance issues, call us on 01452 331331 or mail

10 November 2017, 13:51